Environmental Initiatives at Boulder Community Hospital

January 11th, 2004

To Whom It May Concern,

I have just read of the progressive stance your hospital is taking concerning the elimination of wasteful protocols for your physical plant and concern for the environmental impact re: product selection. I was further impressed by your interest in evaluating the manner in which you select vendors to supply your hospital, based upon their production policies. This is “trickle up” capitalism at its best where the producers of superior materials, operating in a responsible manner, are rewarded with consumer dollars. The example set by your program will have a positive effect upon more than just the health care sector.

I have a broader purpose in writing to you tonight, however. The use of “green” building practices reflects the best in conservation, both fiscally and environmentally. Unfortunately, it is not synonymous with “healthier”users of those goods and services. There are millions of individuals at present who are being denied health care in hospital settings due to a misunderstanding about the limitations of “Green” practices. I am among them.

I was disabled by pesticide poisoning several years ago, leaving me chronically ill with CFIDS and brain damaged. In addition I have reactions ranging from mildly adverse to life threatening when exposed to a variety of toxic materials related to those disabling exposures such as insecticides, petrochemical solvents, alcohol esters and other VOC/PAH emissions commonly found in disinfectants, synthetic fragrances, adhesives, latex rubber, PVC medical equipment etc. Even furnishings and carpets emit copious amounts of formaldehyde, compromising respiratory, immune and neurological systems in those with reduced tolerances.

I have been told to leave hospital emergency rooms due to my allergy to propylene glycol, prominent in disinfectant sprays because they would not examine me in any area but that designated for treatment. I have had to refuse hospitalization for serious conditions when they admitted an inability to accommodate my needs.

I am not a rarity by any means. Oncology departments are increasingly adopting fragrance free policies and shifting to non-irritating cleaning products as chemotherapy patients show decreased tolerances due to the poisons utilized in their critical treatment plans. Studies are showing administration of antibiotics to young children increase rates of allergic sensitization to their environments. Asthma is a nationwide, urban epidemic, precipitated not just by pollution but the common policy of regular extermination in residences, schools and offices with highly toxic products.

Several studies all confirm the rising incidence of chemical injury/sensitization. The health departments of New Mexico and California found that 16% of respondents reported adverse reactions to chemical irritants/toxicants. Another 6% were physician-diagnosed with chemical sensitivities given the severity of their conditions. A green building plant is not necessarily a healthy plant for treatment of ill persons. Many among the population of chemically injured persons are also health care workers, poisoned by contacts with laboratory chemicals such as formaldehyde, antiseptics and developers such as gluteraldehyde and latex products. Only a review of product MSDS sheet health warnings will suffice. Many products are untested for health hazards and this must also be taken into account. A tolerance for a few weeds over pristine grounds will allow all to enjoy a landscape free of herbicides – often associated with cancers, Parkinson’s disease and other serious diseases.

Please include indoor air quality as a priority to preserve the health of staff, promote the healing of patients and once again, set a standard of care for the earth and its inhabitants.

Thank you for your attention,

Barbara Rubin

Categories: Letters

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